Swedish Hockey the American way
No, it’s not a misprint. The Elitserien is now the Swedish Hockey League, right down to the English word for “svensk.” The change from Elitserien to Swedish Hockey League is part of an effort to make the league more sellable to both foreign players and foreign markets.
The SHL faces challenges from several areas as it looks to augment its product, and not just from North America. The Russia-based Kontinental Hockey League continues to lure top SHL players away from Sweden. This offseason, however, a number of American, Canadian and North America-based Swedes all decided to sign with SHL clubs, creating a reverse-flow of talent.
The SHL, following in the wake of the NHL, decided to adopt several controversial rules designed to open the game to more scoring. The rule that has drawn the most fire is a “new” take on slashing. Players have always used their sticks to slow down an opponent, often “tapping” an opponent’s legs to annoy him. This season, that sort of contact could land the offender in the penalty box for two minutes. Many players complained about the new rule during the preseason but to little avail.
On the ice, defending champion Skellefteå looks to again be the team to beat. The champions surprisingly held onto 2013 scoring champion Bud Holloway, who turned down an offer from the Los Angeles Kings to return to North America. The Canadian, in his third season with Skellefteå, said he stayed for primarily one reason.
“I love it here, I love all the guys on my team and the town Skellefteå, so it was comforting coming back for the third year,” he said. “The deal (Los Angeles) offered me didn't seem like the right one to take at the time. We didn't see that it was the best move for me to continue developing and moving forward.”
Holloway and his teammates had to adjust to a new coaching staff in the preseason as Hans Wallson, Stefan Klockare and Bert Robertsson took over from Anders Forsberg.
“Their style is a little bit more straight forward, a little bit more grit and not as fancy with the puck,” Holloway said.
After leading the league with 71 points on 21 goals and 50 assists, Holloway is off to a slightly slower start this season. After four games, the Canadian has just two assists. He said he wasn’t worried.
“I just want to give my team a chance to win every night and I feel like I've played my best and done things right for the team,” he said. “If I have zeros in my column I'm happy with it as long as we are winning.”
Skellefteå led the league with 10 points after four games, with Linköping, Leksand and Luleå tied for second with eight points.

Sundhage challenges women’s team
Saying, “We have to go from good to better,” Swedish women’s national team head coach Pia Sundhage challenged her team to improve as it set out to qualify for the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
Sweden opened its campaign to reach Canada 2015 on Sept. 21 with a tip against Poland. The group includes Scotland, Northern Ireland, Bosnia and the Faroe Islands. The top team in the group automatically qualifies for the World Cup.
Sundhage, who led her team to a third-place finish in July at the Sweden-held UEFA Women’s European Championship, stayed with the players who claimed the bronze, making just three changes due to injury. "We played good football," said Sundhage. "But it won't be enough to win a medal at the 2015 World Cup. We need to go from good to better."
One area where Sundhage said she wanted to see improvement was in decision-making and the team’s aerial game. "It is then up to the individual player to work on improving herself in her daily training," said Sundhage. "As coaches, all we can do is point to the specific areas."
Just how much improvement she saw against Poland is debatable. The Poles managed to hold Sweden scoreless for 50 minutes when the teams met at the Swedbank Arena in Malmö. Caroline Seger finally broke the scoreless deadlock in the 52nd minute when she scored on a header off a pass from Sara Thunebro. Lotta Schelin doubled the lead 14 minutes late off a pass from Therese Sjögran. Neither goalscorer was particularly happy with how Sweden played.
“We were too slow,” Seger said. “We need to pick up the tempo of our forwards although we were better after we scored the first goal.”
Sweden’s next World Cup qualifier is Oct. 26 against Bosnia. The two teams meet in Sarajevo.